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Oh to be young (and in real estate)

The average Wisconsin Realtor is getting older, but some say now is the time for young professionals to enter the industry.

Less than 4 percent of the Wisconsin Association of Realtors’ roughly 12,000 Realtor members are younger than 30, according to information provided by the group, and the median age is 54.

That is younger than the median age of Realtors nationwide in 2013, the most recent year from which data is available. According to the National Association of Realtors, the national median age “has steadily increased in recent years from 51 years in 2007 to 57 in 2013.” The NAR attributes that increase to a decline in the number of members retiring or switching professions.

Representatives from commercial real estate programs at Marquette University and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said enrollment dropped during the recession and are predicting a dearth of available talent.

The head of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, Mike Ruzika, said the residential market has lost many young Realtors since the recession began, and the industry is returning to its traditional demographics.

But Dave Stark, president of Madison-based Stark Co. Realtors, said he suspects that will change in the next decade. His firm, which has 185 Realtors and handles mostly residential properties, recently started prioritizing hiring young workers.

“I think the 50- and 60-somethings are starting to move out of the business,” he said.

He said he would not be surprised if, over the next 10 years, real estate professionals in their 20s and early 30s made up as much as 30 percent of the residential Realtors in Wisconsin.

“Ten years from now,” Stark said, “all the faces are going to be different.”

He said he had a 25-year-old employee who started in January and will close on her first sale this month with six more in the pipeline. A 29-year-old employee is poised to close more than $5 million in sales this year.

“It’s really fun to watch,” Stark said.

The young employees bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the profession, he said, and he thinks the best time to enter the industry is between 24 and 28 years old.

Max Schultz, an investment analyst for Milwaukee-based Siegel-Gallagher Inc., is even younger than that.

Schultz is 23, and he graduated from Marquette University in 2013. His degree is in business administration focusing on finance and entrepreneurship, but he grew interested in commercial real estate before graduation and interned with Siegel-Gallagher for about seven months before being hired full-time.

Schultz said he sees a gap between people his age and the older members of the profession. There is a lack of people who are four to 10 years older than he is, he said, probably caused by a decrease in interest in the profession during the recession.

But that will work in his favor, he said. When the baby boomers retire, that will create a void for him to fill, and he could be groomed for that position at a younger age than might be traditional.

“I think if you’re in the right place at the right time,” Schultz said, “it can be beneficial.”

About Beth Kevit

Beth Kevit is the Milwaukee city beat reporter and also covers real estate. She can be reached at [email protected] or 414-225-1820.

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